You may have missed it, but three weeks ago, word got out that Vernell “Bimbo” Coles had been named as the new boy’s basketball coach at Greenbrier East High School.
For many years, I have felt that Coles was our state’s most underappreciated and overlooked athlete. When one of our state’s great high school athletes chooses to go out of state to play in college, we sometimes seem to forget about them. Oftentimes we feel betrayed.
Whatever the reason, we should always appreciate the talent of a state superstar like Coles. It is likely that he could have chosen between the NBA or the NFL. He chose to play basketball and had a 14-year NBA career and played on an Olympic team.
Coles was a multi-sport athlete at Greenbrier East, from where he graduated in 1986. He could have been a Division I athlete and NFL prospect as a defensive back in football, but he chose to play basketball at Virginia Tech.
He would go on to be one the great players in Virginia Tech history as he was a three-time all-conference selection and was the Metro Conference Player of the Year in 1988. His number has been retired in Blacksburg. He was also chosen to play on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team in the last year that the team was made up of college players. Former Georgetown coach John Thompson coached that team.
After college, Coles played from 1990-2004 in the NBA for the Heat, Warriors, Hawks, Cavaliers and Celtics.
The Lewisburg native is now back in his home area of Greenbrier County and has a chance to impact the lives of young people there. When he played at Virginia Tech and played against WVU, he received a fairly harsh reception in Morgantown.
Much like Curt Warner (Penn State), Chris Smith (Virginia Tech), Ryan Switzer (North Carolina), Patrick Patterson (Kentucky) or other West Virginia natives who played in college out of state, we should enjoy the accomplishments of Coles.
n It was good recently to visit recently with a former two-sport athlete from DuPont, Randy Hodges. Hodges starred in basketball and baseball at DuPont in 1971 before going on to play baseball at West Virginia Tech.
Hodges has been traveling back and forth to Philadelphia in recent years to deal with a variety of health issues. He and his brothers, Russell, Larry and Dwayne, were all popular figures and athletes in the eastern end of the Kanawha Valley.
n There were over 200 former student-athletes who returned to Marshall’s campus for homecoming this weekend. Among them, from the old Kanawha Valley Conference days, were former South Charleston football star Carl Lee and former Charleston High standout Steve Morton.
A regular at most Marshall games is Boone County native and former Scott star Allen Meadows, who has a special place in history at MU. After the tragic plane crash in 1970, he was the first in-state recruit, from the class of 1971, to verbally pledge to go to Marshall to help rebuild the program.